I Want Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere

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Three weeks ago, at the height of my sleep deprivation, our AC died.

I grew up without this miracle of air conditioning, so I don’t consider it a necessity. Usually.

This particular week, though, the lack of American amenities felt rough. On Thursday night, in my confused, emotional state, I was already planning on sitting on my couch all day long, all weekend long, and doing a whole lot of nothing, trying to come back to normal.

“Okay,” I thought, “I’ll just be hot while I do nothing. It’s fine.” I was dripping while I thought this, by the way. And it was nearly 10pm.

I rounded the corner toward my room to get ready for bed, and there, in the hallway, poised to also enter my room, was a giant spider.

Now, in case you don’t know me well, you should know that spiders are really the only thing I am afraid of. And I am very afraid of them.

(Note: This is not your opportunity to start posting scary spider photos and articles and gifs on my wall or texting them to me. That will result in you very politely being unfriended and blocked. Just wanted to be honest. The situation is that serious.)

Well, I panicked, took a photo for verification purposes (“No, seriously, it really was huge!”) and went to get the vacuum. When I came back with the vacuum…

…it was gone.

The damn spider disappeared. Probably into my bed.

Nope. Not happening. The combination of overwhelming heat and a loose and completely disrespectful spider meant I was out of there.

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I discovered that I’d be really great at the “your house is burning down and you have two minutes to get out with everything you need” game. I grabbed my pillow, my toiletries bag, my work bag, clothes for the next day, then I took out the trash and I was out of that condo in 90 seconds flat.

For real.

I spent that night on the couch of some very comforting and understanding friends, but the next day, my fish and I moved to another friend’s house for the weekend.

ThinkstockPhotos-507271363She had AC, she had recently sprayed for spiders, and I needed a break. So I went and laid on her couch Friday night through Sunday, basically staring at the wall, and occasionally watching TV.

But about midway through Saturday, I realized I needed to do something. I couldn’t just sit around all weekend. Something needed to happen to redeem this hot mess of a week, which culminated in a literally hot and bug-infested weekend.

I ran through some options, including rock climbing and going to a shooting range, but I finally decided to go skydiving.

See, skydiving is on my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30, and since I turn 30 in March, I knew I would have to go soon before the weather got cold. So, what better way to redeem a terrible week and a worse weekend than to jump out of a plane?

I called the place and made a reservation, and three hours later I was harnessed to a nice young man, and both of us were staring down at cornfields approximately 12,000 feet below us.

It was awesome. And terrifying. But mostly awesome.

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After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, when I think about that weekend, I think, “Hey – I went skydiving!” Not, “Ugh, I ran away from a spider.”

Well, maybe a little of both. But mostly skydiving.

What adventures have you gone on to redeem your bad days? It doesn’t have to be skydiving. It can be little adventures. All adventures are good adventures.

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Ugly Sleep

English Bulldog exhausting by busy day laid his head on the table to rest

Sleep and I are in a fight. I honestly have no idea who’s winning.

My psychiatrist got tired of me saying I was tired all the time, so she sent me off to a specialist.

The specialist, a white-haired, soft-spoken, South Asian woman, entered the examination room with a wry smile. “You’re pulling out your phone,” she said without preamble, offering a soft and wrinkled hand for me to shake, “because they told you I’d be a hundred years late. They’re usually right. I still surprise them once in a while.” She sat and swiveled toward her computer.

I chose not to point out that, although she had arrived promptly to the examination room, I had already listened to the Weather Channel for over an hour in the waiting room.

Her eyes stayed focused on the screen before her. She asked questions about my sleep and life habits, and she measured my neck, which was an odd experience, for no other reason than I don’t remember anyone doing that before.

She recommended a tracking plan, and said she wanted to tag team me to another specialist, someone who works with insomnia specifically.

ThinkstockPhotos-77747004“Can you imagine?” she asked her keyboard, “There’s someone who only studies insomnia. How is that possible? I do not know. But she is smarter than me. I tell you the details. She will actually help you. Her success rate is very high.”

I can imagine. About 60 million Americans reported that they experienced insomnia last year. We’re becoming a sleepless society.

“You won’t be able to see her soon,” the specialist continued, “because she’s so successful. So in the meantime I will tell you what to do.”

What to do, it turns out, is basically not to sleep. They call this a Sleep Restriction Program. After she described it, the doctor finished with, “I’m glad you are not crying. Once I told a woman this, and she started crying immediately. I can still see her face.”

Full disclosure: although I did not cry then, I did cry a few days later out of sheer exhaustion.

I have now unsuccessfully started my Sleep Restriction Program three times. The idea of the program is to force your body to sleep efficiently. You only allow yourself to spend six hours in bed each night, until you are sleeping for 90% of those six hours. Then you can add 15 minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 3.42.29 PM.pngAlthough I have been dealing with insomnia for several years, I’d been self-medicating with naps, caffeine, snooze buttons, and extra hours in bed. And I’ve discovered that not doing those things makes life pretty rough. The afternoon slump turns into an afternoon nosedive into a bottomless abyss. My brain doesn’t stop spinning, incessantly replaying conversations and running “what if” scenarios. My emotional stability guide goes on vacation and leaves the kids to burn the house down.

The doctor had warned that I could be irritable.

Lady, I can’t even see “irritable” from here.

All this to say, I’m learning to appreciate sleep and all it can do for us. I’m regretting the hours and hours I spent fighting naps as a child.

If this story feels anti-climactic, it’s because I’m sleep deprived. I want to be sleeping. Right now. Take a nap, for me, will you?

Here’s to Functioning

I was sitting at my kitchen table on Wednesday, catching up on annoying little life things. It’s been a while since I used my pill sorter, which has meant that I’ve missed my medication a few times in recent weeks. It was time to get back into the habit of using it, because it’s not just senior citizens that can’t remember what they took and when.

I went upstairs, grabbed my pill sorter and gathered the bottles, brought them back down, and sat back at the table. And I stared at those bottles. IMG_5208

I couldn’t believe how many there were.

I still can’t believe how much it takes to keep me functioning as a human.

I have no shame in this.

(In fact, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for the hours of therapy and doctor’s offices and hundreds of dollars I have put in to figure out how to function. I want to be healthy, and I’m doing what it takes to be healthy. If you’re in this boat too, there ain’t no shame on you and me. We’re fighting for our lives, and using the weapons that we have available so we can keep fighting. That’s a good thing.) [Steps off soapbox.]

It does feel surreal, though. How could I possibly need this much help to function?

Then KJ pointed out to me that, realistically, other people have to do this much and more to function. It could just be different from what I have to do.

It could be not eating gluten. It could be stretching out an old wound every day. It could be going to AA meetings. It could be checking your blood sugar. It could be meditation.

Whatever it is, however much you have to invest every single day in order to be the healthiest version of you that is possible, there is no shame in that. In fact, be proud. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of us.

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Here’s to functioning as a human every day, and the things we do to be healthy.

 

 

I’d love to hear about something you do regularly to help you function.

Some More Good Stuff

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Need some pick-me-ups in your life while you struggle to get the kids to school, your beach body back to work, or the boards on your windows before the next hurricane? Look no further, because it’s that time again. Recommendations from Ashleyne based on what’s going right in her life. Hopefully they bring joy to your life, too.

Books:

If you haven’t read anything by Douglas Adams, you’re going to need to fix that. Yes, I’m at least 30 years late to the party on this recommendation, but he really never gets old. (His writing doesn’t, I mean. Douglas himself has unfortunately been dead for quite a few years now.) I just finished Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and loved it. If you like quirky, witty writing, this guy’s for you.

Another great (and less dead) author I’m continuing to enjoy: Ann Voskamp. Even if you don’t have time to fully enjoy her amazingly descriptive sentences and meaningful imagery, stop and read chapter 3 of The Broken Way. Worth the 20 minutes, FO SHO.

Movies:

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I recently discovered what I firmly believe to be the worst movie ever made. Country Crush, a made-for-tv movie about a young female country singer and a teenage mechanic, is sincerely awful from start to finish. And I LOVE made-for-tv movies! So you know it’s bad. It’s so bad, that I promise you, you straight up need to watch the first 5 minutes. 5 minutes, that’s all. Just do it, for me. Your brain will explode.

While we’re talking about made-for-tv movies, let me throw a good one your way. (Yes, there is such a thing. Really.) The Matchbreaker was quirky, funny, and cute. Basically, a pleasant surprise. And a great tribute to Christina Grimmie, since it was her only film role.

Miscellaneous:

I’ve finally gotten on the podcast bandwagon, like a real millennial. And there are some great ones out there. The one I’ve found to be the most consistently interesting and challenging is called BackStory. It comes from a group of historians, and each episode they explain the history behind something that’s currently in the news. As a young American, I fully admit to being almost entirely historically illiterate. So I’m trying to fix that, one podcast at a time. And it helps when the history is directly related to what’s happening in the world right now.

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Downsizing. I packed a zillion times this summer, and moved to a new house, so I am painfully aware of just how much stuff I own. Do I need it? No. Will someone else give me a couple of dollars for it? Maybe! And then I can buy ice cream, and I really like ice cream. Plus, getting rid of things really does feel freeing. I know they’ve been saying it for years, but turns out it’s actually true!

 

 

What are you loving lately? What’s the good stuff in your life right now?

Social Vigilantes

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I’ve been learning lately that there are two kinds of people around me: people who try to stay “up on” our culture, and people who, for myriad reasons, do not.

Really, keeping up with the times is nearly an impossible task, because as soon as you know something, it’s gone. It’s like a fighter jet going overhead. By the time you hear those engines screaming, the plane itself is probably out of sight. When you find out something or someone is cool, it’s probably not anymore. Finally hearing about Lin-Manuel Miranda? He was definitely last year. And wondering where Sean Spicer ended up? His 15 minutes were over before Melissa McCarthy got her wig off. And by this time, the majority of America has zero clue where their eclipse glasses ended up.

We’re short on memory around here.

The things that last a little longer tend to be conceptual, rather than tangible.

And right now, in our culture, the concept that is cool is social justice.

Hold up. I know some of you are feeling salty right now, and about ready to throw some serious eclipse my way for that statement. Tbh, I was scared to say it. But I’m p sure it’s true. So…sorry not sorry. (Pro tip: this paragraph will tell you which kind of person you are.)

See, I truly hope that the majority of people who are into social justice right now are in-it-to-win-it because it’s the right thing to do. But having lived among humans for some time now, I realize that’s not going to be true for everybody.

And just because something might be the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s got its own bandwagon going down the street. We are pro Black Lives Matter and we buy Fair Trade coffee, but when was the last time any of us took in someone off the street so they weren’t cold and hungry at night? Have you checked your clothes to see if they were made in a country that allows child labor? Yeah, me neither. Do I even know which countries allow child labor? Sure don’t.

Truth be told, we’re not all that committed to the social justice bandwagon, as a culture.

ThinkstockPhotos-586055578So we’re all talking about the same thing, let’s define justice real quick. According to the googles, something that is just is based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Are we, as a culture, invested in what’s morally right and fair? Well, we do promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet things related to social justice. But the other people and things we promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet are not all that morally right and fair. People with personal integrity no longer do better than people without it. And actually, when it comes down to it, a good portion of America no longer believes in morals. Most Millennials and almost all of Generation Z believe that truth is subjective. So how could we possibly promote justice, if there’s no moral “right” to line up with?

So, what happens when you push for justice, but also emphasize that truth is subjective?

ThinkstockPhotos-200288923-001.jpgVigilanteism.

Don’t believe me? Think about this: the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made over $12 billion in the last ten years, telling stories about vigilantes. TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS. And that’s just the movies, not the shows. DC Comics is literally promoting the Justice League right now. It’s a group of people who bring justice, according to their own view of what is morally right and fair. Now, I love Wonder Woman, but even I can see that if she operates only from what she believes is right, it might cause problems.

Two weeks ago, a man drove from Ohio to Charlottesville to hurt other people, because he believed he was doing the right thing, that what he was doing was just and fair. This was just the next in a line of people acting out in violence in the name of their own view of justice.

And if we, as a culture, are not committed to rewriting the script on what actually is just and fair, how can we fight back? How can we truly promote and battle for social justice? Until we commit to establishing what justice is, aren’t we just riding on the bandwagon, until the next cool thing comes along?

I include myself in this. I’m on the bandwagon. And honestly, I’m not sure how to change from riding to fighting. But I’ve learned that when I don’t know where to start on a big problem, I just need to take one step. Do one little thing. And then the next little thing.

ThinkstockPhotos-537604426So I’m going to start by choosing to speak about these things, even when I am afraid that I am going to say something wrong, something hurtful. Even when I might make a total child-of-a-horse-and-a-donkey of myself right up here in front of y’all. Or when I say something insensitive and ignorant, because my privileged, middle class, American, white self doesn’t know any better yet.

I’m going to speak when I’m scared to speak.

What about you? What’s your first step?

Checkpoint Reached

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When your counselor emails you to make sure you’re still alive, you know you’ve been gone from your “normal life” too long. And she’s probably not the only one wondering that.

Yes, hi. I’m still alive. Been traveling. What’s that? Oh, thanks! It’s my summer hairstyle. Keeps me cool, ha ha. I agree, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted. Hey, you’re looking good! Have you lost weight? No kidding! No, that’s okay, if I want to learn how to live on sunflower seeds and paste, I know who to call. How’m I doing? Well…

I went to Florida. And then I went to New York. And then I moved to a new house. And then I went to Colorado for two months. And then I went to Chicago. And now I’m finally home, in my new house, trying to figure out which drawer has toothpaste and which one has pesticide, while I schedule 1,486 doctor/dentist/psychiatrist/sleep doctor/therapist/car mechanic appointments. Oh, and I’m now a team leader at work. Which is AWESOME, but…umm…I don’t have time to work right now, so…

…So I’m doing alright, I think.

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I think I’m doing alright, mostly because I know that this is a new season, and that it’s okay for me to be ridiculously tired from all the things I just did. I’m realizing that seasons can be natural checkpoints, and that checkpoints are a great time to pause and rest, as well as to assess the things I’m carrying around with me and see what I really need.

For instance, I don’t really need a mandolin AND a ukulele, neither of which I play. Ever. Probably a good time to drop one or both of those.

Neither do I need to go to a doctor I really dislike. Ain’t nobody got time for cranky men giving you a pap smear.

But I do need a consistent, physical activity in my life. So I need to find one of those again.

How about you? As we head into a seasonal change, a checkpoint, what do you need to drop, and what do you need to find for this next season?

Snow Leopard Friendships

 

Sometimes in life, you have to spend months, even years, slowly and patiently developing a friendship.

Perhaps you interact occasionally at group functions, knowing each other from a distance, and then over time come to realize you could be friends.

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Or perhaps you even dislike each other, avoiding or fighting constantly, until, after so many awkward or even hostile moments, you realize that the things you like about each other overpower what you dislike. Or even that what you disliked was actually just what you didn’t understand. (Fearing what you don’t know, and all that nonsense.)

I’ve had those friendships. In fact, lately I’ve considered taking a photo every time I meet someone new, in case that person eventually turns out to be a good friend. But the awkward factor would probably be too high. “Would you mind if I photographed you in case I like you later?”

These friendships can be especially deep, because you have years of shared experiences and mutual friends to enjoy together. They are time-consuming but incredibly worthwhile relationships to develop. Don’t be afraid to invest in those kinds of friendships, even if some of them don’t turn out the way you expected. The ones you gain will make up for the ones that drift away.

That’s the lesson for this week; that’s where the universally applicable part of this post ends.

Because every once in a while, you find someone that you immediately become friends with, and really there’s nothing you can do to make it happen except be in the right place at the right time, and jump in when the diving board appears. (Mixed metaphors, you say? Come on, you knew what I meant.) It’s a rare but amazing thing. Like comets. Or snow leopards.

For me, lately, I’ve been incredibly grateful for one woman who appeared in my life in August, pretty much permanently. She’s funny, she’s deep, and she gets my nerdy references to everything from Milo and Otis to Star Wars. We went on tour together during a particularly rough season for both of us, and were able to laugh and cry through it together. I appreciate her friendship probably more than I can say, and I’m fairly good with words.

And at this point, it’s permanent. She’s stuck with me. Forever. Sorry, Aech.

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So maybe there is another universal thought here: if someone comes along and you instantly become friends, jump in. I mean, boundaries are a thing. A big thing. We can talk more about that later. But I’m just saying, don’t be afraid to make friends, even fast friends. Because they’re pretty great.